Saturday, 30 November 2013


Since our wonderful summer and warm autumn many of the plants around here are confused as to the season.  I have a Pieris Forest Flame shrub in the garden covered in flower buds which I'm sure will just fall off as soon as the temperature drops.  My small Azaleas are covered in pink and white flowers and even some of the bulbs in my pots are showing their first leaf spikes. 
 In the bank along the front of our garden is a clump of violets all in full bloom so I had to pick one to draw last weekend.  I also found this striking twig covered in bright lime green lichen which just complemented the mauve beautifully.

Very early one morning we were woken by the security light outside our bedroom window.  As usual Bob jumped out of bed and went to see what had triggered it and what a lovely surprise we had to see these two deer walking calmly along the top of the bank.  They didn't seem at all perturbed by the light so we watched for about 5 minutes till it turned off automatically and the deer sauntered off round the back of the house. 
I drew them from memory so they are probably not very correct anatomically but it's exactly the impression I wanted to show of the animals against a dark background with the brightly lit trees and shrubs in front of them.

Monday, 25 November 2013


After my 100th post yesterday one of my followers asked if I could give any advice on how to start sketching. Although I went to art college when I left school, I was studying dress design and manufacture so I didn't do a lot of drawing except for some design sketches of which only a small sketchbook remains. We also had a life drawing class once a week which was not really taken seriously and I threw all the drawings away when I left home, much to my regret now! I soon settled down with a family and used my sewing skills to earn money and had no time to spare for drawing until the children grew up.  I did a bit of watercolour painting in the late 80s, encouraged by my mother who was a keen painter, but the earliest sketchbook I have is from 1997.  I started to draw the views from our boat when we were away on our trips to the west country and the above is the first in a spiral bound book. I only used pencil at the time and looking back all the sketches are smudged against the opposite page and I think this is one very good reason to draw in pen.
After reading a review in an art magazine in 2000, I purchased a book and set of videos by Claudia Nice called 'Watercolour techniques in pen and ink' which changed my life. I started by buying a black drawing pen and a sketchbook with smooth paper and this is the first sketch done in my lunch break after reading through the book. I practised all the textures Claudia demonstrated and used them all at some time throughout this and many subsequent sketchbooks.
Above are the basic patterns which I redrew in another sketchbook 10 years later to remind me of the basics.  The most important thing to remember is that you are doing this for fun and for yourself only, nobody else has to see it and I certainly wouldn't show any of my earlier books as they are such a mess!  When using a pen to draw it's important that you feel comfortable and not put off by any scratchiness in the nib.  My favourite drawing pen is the Pitt artist pen in sepia and sanguine which also comes in black but I find these colours softer and also less obtrusive when I add colour.  My favourite sketchbook is the moleskine, either the watercolour or the one designated for sketching which has lovely smooth creamy paper which takes pen and coloured pencils beautifully.  I started to use coloured pencils as it was easy to have a small selection in a case in my car when I travelled around as a sales rep.  I had the opportunity to draw in my lunch breaks and as part of my job was visiting historical buildings and other interesting places I had lots to inspire me.  Since 2000 my collection of sketchbooks has grown and become a wonderful record of my life and travels and I can honestly say that every page brings back memories of the time and place where it was done.  I try to draw something every day now and feel lost when I haven't picked up my pen or a crayon!
Since I acquired my first Ipod nearly 5 years ago and then got my own computer my life has changed even more.  I have discovered a world of sketchers who love to share their work and especially Cathy Johnson whose Artists Journal Workshop book and facebook page really got me going sharing my work. Kathryn Tyrrell, whose blog 'Making a Mark' was one of the first I found, has also been a huge source of inspiration and in particular her reviews of new art books, several of which I have bought.  Those which I like the best are:
 Botany for the Artist and The Drawing Book both by Sarah Simblet,
Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils by Ann  Swan,
Work Small, Learn Big, sketching with pen and watercolour, an International Artist publication.
I hope all this makes sense and helps anyone interested to get started on a great hobby.  Or maybe I should call it a way of life because that's what it is really!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Well it's almost a year since I started to post on my blog and as I've reached a landmark of 100 posts I thought it might be an idea to do a flashback over my last couple of year's work. 
I set up the blog originally in July 2012 because Cathy Johnson invited me to contribute to her Nature Sketchers group after seeing my drawings on the Artist's Journal workshop facebook pages.
It took me till December to get going on the blog with my Nature journal I had started in January 2012 after being inspired by 'The country diary of an Edwardian Lady' which my sister had given me for my birthday.  I used a bought book and after experimenting with watercolour I switched to coloured pencils because the paper buckled when it became wet.
During the summer of 2012 Bob and I took a trip I had been dreaming of for many years: to visit the country of my birth, Sweden. I prepared a specially covered watercolour moleskine sketchbook with maps and completely filled it during and soon after the journey using paints and colour pencils.
2012 was also the year of our 40th wedding anniversary and we took a lovely holiday in Corsica to celebrate and I have another mini sketchbook full of sketches from that trip although I didn't post many on the blog. One day I will find out how to make albums on the blog so I can put the pictures together all in one place!
Also during the winter of 2012 I took up the 75 day challenge to draw something every day in pen only without drawing in pencil first.  As I have used pens for drawing ever since I started sketching in books it wasn't too difficult! I decided to use my pottery and ceramic collection as a subject and had a lot of fun using all of my rather large collection of pens, markers and waterbrushes to make a record of what I hope will eventually become family heirlooms now with all their stories attached.
I completed the challenge in February 2013, just in time before our holiday to Tenerife for which I took one of my first home made sketchbooks filled with pale tinted mi-tientes paper. This kept me well occupied while we relaxed around the pool and enjoyed some very welcome winter sun.  I challenged myself to draw some of the very interesting architecture and mountain landscapes I could see from the hotel grounds.
This summer I took another home made sketchbook with darker tinted paper for our trip to England and then to Provence.  I really enjoyed the way the coloured pencils worked with different coloured backgrounds. I have just finished sketchbook 21 and I always carry a small one in my handbag as well so I can draw anywhere the fancy takes me so I think I have counted up to 8 sketchbooks completed in 2 years not to mention the black paper one which is still only half full! 
My only regret is that I didn't label my posts from the beginning because I didn't realise at the time what purpose they served but now I do and maybe I can go back and edit the older posts to make it easier for my followers to find particular subjacts.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


I've just spent a happy afternoon with my sewing machine, making a cover for my black sketchbook.  I bought it for 1euro at a local attic sale and the cover said 'Travel scrapbook' so I decided to personalise it with a fabric slip cover.  I had this lovely fabric I found while we were in Sweden last year and appliquéd the 'nature' using the same lettering as in my nature journal.  My machine has a programme for letttering so I completed the title in a suitable space below the trees.  I'm really pleased with the result which was very easy to make.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


I found one at last!  It was in the grass beside the road to the beach where I have seen them in previous years.  This time I was lucky enough to get there before some well meaning person/vandal kicked them over.  It has a wonderful russet red cap fading to tan at the edges and those spots on top look like iced gems, those tiny biscuits we used to buy when the children were small.  I carried it home carefully in a tissue and it even survived an unexpected visit to a neighbour who waylaid us to stop for a drink!  I have some photos as well from another group I found down the lane so I will make a spread in my watercolour sketchbook although I much prefer to draw from life as I've done with this one.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


This year has certainly been very fruitful, thanks to the wonderful summer we've had.  We have not had apple trees in our garden since we lived at Marringdean in Horsham and they were blown down in the 1987 hurricane so when our friends offered us some of their surplus we were delighted to take them off their hands.  They were different varieties and a bit past their prime but stewed with some brown sugar and sultanas were delicious.  Of course I had to take the time to paint them first.  We actually exchanged them for a bag of walnuts from Hervé's garden after we had helped him to gather them all before he left for Belarus. 
We have a walnut tree in our own garden but as it's only about 10 years old it's not very productive yet.  Each year we get a few more nuts than the year before and this year we could see 20 growing, but when we came to collect them there were only 5 left.  The birds must have got there first! I can't believe how many Hervé's tree has, it took us ages to collect them all and there were still plenty left on the tree out of reach!  We have about 3 kilos in a basket in the store room and he has boxes full.    I had a lot of fun painting on Sunday afternoon and this weekend the rugby season starts so I'll have plenty of time while Bob cheers from the sofa and I just listen while I paint.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I collected a few leaves while I was in England and used the smallest one as a template for this wet in wet watercolour in my home made sketchbook. I had a lot of fun mixing the colours on the paper and want to collect some different shapes to make a larger painting.  I posted it on facebook Artist's Journal Workshop page and got 133 likes, a record for me!

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I found this little beauty hiding behind the dustbin by our garden entrance.  3 or 4 of these bright orange mushrooms were almost hidden in the bracken and grass. I'm still on the lookout for an amanita, one of those ones with white spots on a red cap but so far have only seen rather old ones in peoples gardens so rather inaccessible!  I have a photo taken a few years ago but I much prefer to draw from the real thing.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Yesterday Bob told me he has stopped getting emails when I post a blog so I've changed the settings and hope it works. Have any of you who used to get emails had the same problem?  Please let me know in the comments or by email as I think google has been tweaking and I'm not clever enough with the computer to sort it out!
Here's my drawing of a mushroom I found while I was walking with Justine and the girls at Leith Hill.  It was laying down and when I picked it up I noticed it's extra inhabitant straight away.  I was very careful to keep the beech leaves on top as well as they made a more interesting picture.
This beauty was growing down the lane just outside the fire station.  While I was carefully carrying it home I met a lady who asked me what it was but I was unsure of the species until I looked it up at home.  However we had quite a long conversation about mushrooms and living in France as an English person and she told me she was having English lessons to help her with her job at the campsite.  The French people around here are so friendly, especially when they realise that I can speak their language!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


I am having so much fun drawing in this little book of black pages that cost only 1 euro at a boot sale.  Although the paper is only intended as a scrapbook it is lovely and smooth and takes the Museum watercolour pencils very well.  I have been using them dry as I think the paper may not take wetting too well.
I originally bought it to use the board covers in my bookbinding but soon realised that the paper was worth using too! These pink lilies were given to me as bulbs by a neighbour several years ago.  The flowers appear in autumn and the leaves follow a month later.  They give a welcome splash of colour when everything else is dying down.
Luba gave me this aubergine just before she returned to Belarus as her 3 month stay was up.  She has been trying to get her status regularised as the wife of a Frenchman but it's not been easy dealing with the typical French beaurocracy!  I'm glad we are not the only ones that struggle and even nationals don't get an easy ride!
A bunch of roses Bob bought me before I left for the visit to my girls, I think he missed me while I was gone!

Monday, 4 November 2013


Justine is a keen gardener and has a wonderful collection of dahlias in her garden.  She picked a few to put in my bedroom in tiny coloured glass bottles.  One morning we sat together in her sewing room and while Justine prepared notes for her beading class I drew these lovely flowers with the sun shining through them. 
Another plant in the garden is a kiwi growing over the wall by Justine's back door.  It has plenty of fruit but they are very small and rather sour to eat but fun to draw and try to depict the fuzzy surface.
We went for a walk over Leith hill, a well known beauty spot in Surrey which we used to visit when the children were small and I spotted this amazing red mushroom in the grass in a clearing as we climbed a slope.  It is actually only the size of a yew berry and has the same translucence.  I had to kneel down on the ground to get close enough to take the photograph.  The girls thought their Granny was a bit crazy taking photos of mushrooms and their beliefs were confirmed when I found a tall boletus with a slug half inside the underside of the cap and carried it some distance through the woods till I had some bright enough light to take a few more pictures.  I will post the drawing here as soon as I have found the time to draw it.
I was really amazed at the autumn colours in England, well ahead of the trees here in France.  In fact we don't see much colour here by the coast as the salty air dries the leaves before they have a chance to turn red.  I brought a couple back to draw and paint in watercolour as they are so nice to draw round the shape and then use a bit of artistic licence in the colouring. This one here is as I picked it up but there are more pictures to scan later... watch this space!

Saturday, 2 November 2013


I've just returned from a visit to my daughters in England.  I had a lovely time and even managed some sketching while I was at Justine's. Sarah, my youngest granddaughter is doing the Derwent academy course and I drew her while she watched the video and then did her drawing.
Her eldest sister, Kirsty is at university in Exeter so during the evening we skyped her and both drew her from the screen.  She was looking very glamourous getting ready for a night out.
On another day Justine had organised an afternoon of pottery at a local tutor's house.  We each took our turn at the potter's wheel and had a great time making pots and chatting while we waited. The lady had her garden shed set up with kilns and shelves and also lots of arty magazines and books which she didn't mind us browsing and discussing and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Justine's cat Odin had broken his leg and was confined to a cage in the lounge while he recuperated so I took the opportunity to sketch him. His face is black with very long white whiskers which don't really show up here.